The colored cities of Rajasthan
RAJASTHAN, the “Land of Kings,” is the largest state in India and is renowned for its royal palaces, forts, and historic havelis (a traditional townhouse or mansion) built by feudal Rajput kingdoms.
Millions of travelers are often spellbound by Rajasthan’s extravagant palaces, monumental forts, frescoes and mirror work in havelis, finely-carved temples, luxurious heritage resorts, and the vast landscape of the Thar Desert.
Rich and colorful Rajput heritage also attracts outsiders – you will find Rajasthani men grow swaggering mustaches and wear voluminous red or yellow turbans, and women wear mirror-inlaid saris and heavy silver anklets. All of this magical splendor makes Rajasthan a must-visit destination in India.
There are four main cities recommended to travel in Rajasthan – Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer – and color distinguishes these important tourist cities.
The capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur, is known as the “Pink City” for its pink-hued cluster of historical buildings. Jaipur’s iconic landmark is the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), an 18th-century five-story façade of small windows decorated with intricate latticework, designed for royal ladies to watch activities outside while remaining in purdah.
The best time to appreciate the Hawa Mahal is early morning when the light shines on the façade casting orange-pink glows.
Amber Fort is another Jaipur’s top attraction, a magnificent Rajput fort consisting of a palace complex built from pale yellow and pink sandstone and white marble. The most beautiful part of Amber Fort is the Sheesh Mahal (Mirror Palace) where the walls and ceilings are adorned with glass and mirror work.
Udaipur hasn’t gained a color tag yet, but it could be called the “White City” for its waterside palaces and havelis built of white marble. Udaipur is popularly known as the “City of Lakes” because of its picturesque lakes which make the city alluring, beautiful and romantic.
Situated on the banks of Lake Pichola is the City Palace, the largest royal complex in Rajasthan. There are two island palaces on the lake – Lake Palace which was a central feature in the James Bond film Octopussy and Jag Mandir Palace which is famous for hosting opulent and lavish Indian society weddings.
Go on a boat ride on the picturesque Lake Pichola to capture views of the palaces, havelis, and ghats. The boat ride also offers a stopover at the Jag Mandir Palace for a tour around the island palace grounds.
Located on the eastern fringe of the Thar is Jodhpur – a city that was once the center of Marwar, a large princely state of the Rajputana kingdom. Jodhpur is called the “Blue City” for its sky-blue color-wash cubic houses situated in the old city, overlooked and dominated by the imposing Mehrangarh Fort.
Mehrangarh Fort is a hilltop fort comprising exquisite palaces and resplendent rooms that were converted into a museum, housing an impressive collection of palanquins, elephant howdahs, miniature paintings, weapons, and turbans. The palace-fort is one of the well-stocked museums in Rajasthan.
Spend some time wandering in the blue maze of the old city, for you will stumble upon traditional spice markets, puppet-makers, and shoe-makers. The famed blue cubic roofscape is best viewed at sunset.
In the remote westernmost corner of Rajasthan and right in the middle of the Thar is Jaisalmer, a quintessential desert town. With its impressive golden sand-yellow colored forts, temples and buildings, Jaisalmer is termed the “Golden City”.
Rising out of the arid Thar is Jaisalmer Fort – India’s oldest living fort where one-third of the town’s population still resides there – it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013.
Apart from exploring Jaisalmer Fort, visit the Jain Temple inside the fort to study spectacular architecture and detailed carvings, and go for camel safaris and jeep tours as the sand dunes are not far away.
No Rajasthan tour would be complete without a trip to Jaisalmer, for you will feel as if you’re living one of the Arabian Nights stories.
Best time to travel in Rajasthan: October to March
Stay at least two nights in each city as it requires that much time to explore the sights.
If you’re planning a road trip between the cities, add another day or two in your itinerary to account for distance and rest. For example, Jaisalmer is the furthest city away – it takes around 10 hours’ drive from Jaipur, 9 hours from Udaipur and 5 hours from Jodhpur to reach Jaisalmer.
The extra days in between cities also give you time to relax and enjoy Rajasthan at a leisurely pace.